Priest Oks going West to answer sex charges

Maria Kantzavelos

A Catholic priest living in Aurora who is facing charges that he sexually assaulted two altar boys in California will surrender voluntarily to San Benardino County authorities, his lawyer said Tuesday.

Rev. Edward Lawrence Ball, 60, has been living in the Society of the Missionaries of Sacred Heart's U.S. headquarters, at 305 S. Lake St. in Aurora.

He was arrested by Aurora police in October and charged with 26 counts of sexual assault that allegedly occurred in San Bernadino County, California, from 1978 to 1985, said Dwight Moore, that county's supervising deputy district attorney.

Ball, who is said to have been a priest for more than 30 years, was released in November from Kane County Jail after posting 10 percent of a$25,000 bond, and he was placed on electronic monitoring, said his lawyer, David Camic.

At that time, he was ordered not to leave Illinois. San Bernardino authorities had been seeking extradition to California.

On Tuesday, Kane County Circuit Judge Philip L. DiMarzio approved an order that was agreed to by San Bernardino and Kane County prosecutors and Ball's lawyers. The order modifies the conditions of Ball's bond allowing him to avoid extradition and return to San Bernardino on his own.

Camic said Ball is expected to return to San Bernardino no later than January 15, 2000.

"When he's there, then he'll be in a position to formally contest the allegations, including filing the appropriate motions based on the age of the case," Camic said.

The warrant issued by San Bernardino County authorities in October for Ball's arrest stemmed from alleged incidents with two altar boys while Ball had been a parish priest in that county, Moore said.

San Bernardino authorities have said that the charges were made possible by the elimination in 1999 of California's six year time limit on filing sexual assault charges.

Moore said he had no problem with the request to waive the priest's extradition.

"Since he's already been released from custody, if he wanted to flee he could have fled already," Moore said. "Releasing him to come here at his own expense is both quicker and cheaper than grinding through the system."

He added, "He's been through all this before, so we have some idea of what to expect from him."

Ball was convicted in 1993 of sexual offenses against three boys while he was serving as a parish priest in San Bernardino, Moore said. He had been living in Texas when he was arrested and returned to San Bernardino on his own to answer to the charges.

After his conviction, Ball was placed on probation, which he has completed, Moore said.

After the 1993 conviction, prosecutors learned that the priest might have committed prior sexual offenses against children. Moore claimed that Ball had made statements to a probation officer alluding to his involvement in such prior incidents but that it wasn't until the alleged victims came forward in the last several months that prosecutors were able to file the latest charges.